April 6, 2010

Cancer Inflames Medical Research

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On Friday, Prof. Moonsoo Jin, biomedical engineering, lectured about his medical research.  He found evidence that inflammation may be used to diagnosis cancer at early stages, and he believes that removing inflammation in patients may prevent cancer progression.

Almost eight million people died from various cancers in 2007. That is, nearly 13 percent of all deaths that year. Despite improvements in diagnosis, treatment and even prevention, the annual number of cancer-related deaths continues to grow.

During his Friday seminar, “Multi-scale Approach to Human Health: Targeting Cancer, Inflammation, and Association between Them,” Prof. Moonsoo Jin, biomedical engineering, described the relationship between inflammation and cancer, shared his research in the field of oncology and suggested innovative approaches to improving the efficiency of chemotherapy drugs.

Inflammation is the response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants.

“Because prolonged inflammation can lead to many dangerous diseases, such as atherosclerosis, psoriasis and even cancer,” Jin said, “early detection of inflammation, as well as specifically targeted drugs can prevent more serious complications.”

Through his research, Jin found that the body produces an excess supply of the molecule, ICAM-1, under inflammatory conditions.  By measuring levels of ICAM-1, researchers may diagnose cancer at earlier stages.

Jin also discovered a method to increase the effective delivery of ICAM-1.  He used an “integrin,” a receptor that mediates attachment between a cell and the tissues surrounding it, called I-DOMAIN.  It can bind to ICAM-1, in combination with anything that needs to reach the inflammation site such as anti-inflammatory drugs.

To demonstrate this, Jin describes the creation of two nanoparticles. They incorporated iron oxide, a good contrast agent for imaging. One of these nanoparticles included I-DOMAIN, while the second one (the control) did not.

Researchers injected two mice with a lipopolysaccaride to induce inflammation. Twelve hours later, researchers injected each mouse with one of the nanoparticle.  Using optical and MRI imagining to observe reactions, Jin noticed an important discrepancy between the actions of the nanoparticles.

The mouse with the I-DOMANIN injection did not contain the targeting agent, I-DOMAIN, showed that particles without the targeting agent escape through “leaky vasculature,” accumulate in the bladder and are eventually excreted.

In relation to cancer research, inflammation can directly cause colon, gastric and cervical cancer. In addition, inflammation can contribute to cancer progression and “metastasis,” the movement of cancer from one organ system to another.

Jin explained that. because of this relationship, his goal is “to develop a tool for real time imaging to define interplay between inflammatory cells and tumors that influence cancer initiation, progression and the metastasis process.”

According to Jin, deadly tumors are those that progress to M2 state, which means the cancer cells proceed through “angiogenesis,” a process which supplies tumors with oxygen, provides routes for vasculature and allows tumors to grow beyond their initial state.

Detecting and removing inflammation may prevent tumors from entering the M2 state.  Consequently, this may yield superior prognosis and effective treatment.

Jin and his team also developed a urethane acrylate non-ionomer (UAN), which Jin says, could be crucial for chemotherapy drug delivery. Because UAN is polar (hydrophilic) and non-polar (hydrophobic), hydrophobic chemotherapy drugs and imaging agents can bind to it. This allows for the use of new chemotherapy drugs, which no longer would need to be water soluble.

“This enhances targeted delivery of the drugs, because [they] can remain in their original potency, which we hope will make a large difference,” Jin said.

Original Author: Maria Minsker